Families of Japanese taken by N.Korea say time running out to get them back

The year 2022 marked the 20th anniversary of the Japan-North Korea summit, which led to the repatriation of five Japanese nationals who were abducted by Pyongyang.

But none of the 12 remaining abductees the Japanese government officially recognizes have since returned to Japan.

Eight parents of abductees died in the two decades that have passed, without being reunited with their kidnapped children. Only 86-year-old Yokota Sakie, mother of high-profile abductee Yokota Megumi, and 94-year-old Arimoto Akihiro, father of abductee Arimoto Keiko, remain.

The group that represents families of abductees adopted a new action plan last year. It states that the abductions issue will never be resolved until the parents can once again hold their children in their arms.

The group said repeatedly that time is running out to resolve the issue.

The Japanese government responded by stating that the abductions are a human rights issue and for the first time acknowledged that there is a time constraint for resolving it as the victims' families are aging. It pledged to seek a swift solution to the issue.

Yokota Takuya, who heads the abductees family group, is the brother of abductee Yokata Megumi.

Reflecting on 2022, he told NHK there was no visible progress in efforts to bring their loved ones back.

He said no one has been able to verify where his sister is since she was abducted 45 years ago.

He said he can't understand why the issue is taking so long to resolve. Yokota said this year his mother will be 87 years old, the same age her husband was when he died.

He said she is unable to speak loudly or walk fast and has sometimes hurt herself by tripping on something.

He said the harsh reality is that there are time constraints on solving the abduction issue.

Yokota touched upon the message addressed to North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un the group first issued four years ago.

He said the group repeatedly vowed it would not ask abductees what they saw or heard in North Korea when they return and would not disclose secrets or sabotage negotiations to normalize ties between Japan and North Korea.

He said he wants North Korean authorities to believe his group's promises and to take bold action.